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The internationally-recognized, award-winning book, “True Brit — Beatrice, 1940,” written by Santa Fe author Rosemary Zibart and illustrated by Santa Fe artist George Lawrence, has been named a finalist in two categories of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.
“True Brit” is a finalist in the Young Adult and Historical Fiction categories. The book has previously received a Gold Award for Historical Fiction from Mom’s Choice Awards and was a finalist in the 2011 London Book Awards.
In “True Brit,” a spoiled English girl, Beatrice Sims, comes to Santa Fe to live with practical, hard-working nurse Clementine Pope.
At first, the 12-year-old hates the dusty little town. But soon Beatrice makes friends with goofy Arabella, develops a crush on handsome Esteban and aids Ana, a shy Indian girl. First accused of being “faceta” — stuck up, Beatrice learns to change tires, ride wild ponies and helps Clem rescue a sick baby on an Indian pueblo.
The inspiration for the story came 15 years ago when Zibart was reading the New Mexican newspaper. She noticed in the “50 Years Ago Today” column, a snippet of news about four English girls arriving in Santa Fe.
Fleeing the Nazi bombing in England, the four were hosted locally by a prominent architect, the John Gaw Meem’s family.
“I was instantly struck by the contrast between grey dismal England and sunny bohemian Santa Fe,” Zibart said. Intrigued by the story, she sought out Nancy Meem Wirth to find out more.
For Wirth, the experience had been a high point of her youth. An only child, she suddenly had four sisters. Since passenger travel on the Atlantic ceased during the war, the girls remained with the Meem family until 1945.
A journalist, Zibart initially wanted to write a non-fiction children’s book. Soon she began to fictionalize the story by drawing on research from various articles she’d written. She was particularly inspired by the nurses hired by the New Mexico Association for Indian Affairs (now SWAIA) to improve health care on the pueblos.
“Coming from an upper class background, Beatrice experiences the exhilaration of discovering a much larger world than she knew existed,” Zibart said, “And learning how to become useful to others.”
The New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards serve to promote the best in local New Mexico and Arizona books. The awards have been given since 2007, 2012 is the first year the awards feature books from Arizona. There were more than 1,400 entries in more than 40 different categories.